The impact of anthropogenic land use and land cover change on regional climate extremes

Kirsten L. Findell, Alexis Berg, Pierre Gentine, John P. Krasting, Benjamin R. Lintner, Sergey Malyshev, Joseph A. Santanello, Elena Shevliakova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Land surface processes modulate the severity of heat waves, droughts, and other extreme events. However, models show contrasting effects of land surface changes on extreme temperatures. Here, we use an earth system model from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory to investigate regional impacts of land use and land cover change on combined extremes of temperature and humidity, namely aridity and moist enthalpy, quantities central to human physiological experience of near-surface climate. The model's near-surface temperature response to deforestation is consistent with recent observations, and conversion of mid-latitude natural forests to cropland and pastures is accompanied by an increase in the occurrence of hot-dry summers from once-in-a-decade to every 2-3 years. In the tropics, long time-scale oceanic variability precludes determination of how much of a small, but significant, increase in moist enthalpy throughout the year stems from the model's novel representation of historical patterns of wood harvesting, shifting cultivation, and regrowth of secondary vegetation and how much is forced by internal variability within the tropical oceans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number989
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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